Even though it is just February and there is still snow on the ground in some parts of the country, now is the time to think about starting seeds indoors! Certain plants need a head-start on the season before they are planted outside in the garden. Here in Arkansas we are already starting our lettuce, kale, and cabbage seeds indoors in early February. In early March we will start our tomatoes, peppers, and basil.
Why start seeds indoors?
Some crops need to be planted in the garden as transplants instead of planting the seeds directly. You can find most of these plants at your local garden store in the spring, but you may want to grow a specific variety (like the seeds in our Freckled Hen Collection) that the stores don’t carry or you may want the experience of staring your own seeds and watching the little seedlings grow! Also, starting your own seeds is a lot less expensive than buying plants!
What seeds need to be started indoors?
Here is a short list of the seeds that need to be started indoors. You can also look on the back of your 1canoe2 seed packet or on your Freckled Hen Garden Calendar to know specifically for the seed varieties you have.
Summer squash and zucchini (optional)
What supplies do I need?
To start seeds indoors you will need potting media, containers, and a warm, sunny spot.
We like to use plastic cell packs to start our own seeds, but there are many different types of containers you can use. Plastic cell packs usually come in a tray that has 72 or 48 cells. These plastic cell packs can be reused for multiple seasons and are easily found at a garden center. You can also start your seeds in peat pots that are bio-degradable or make your own pots out of plastic cups with holes cut in the bottom. Just make sure that your containers are at least 2 inches deep and have holes for water drainage.
When you are at the garden store look for a seed-starting mix or growing mix to use. These mixes will be mostly peat moss with some other natural ingredients like vermiculite or pearlite. Make sure that the mix you buy is for seed starting or for small containers and does not contain large chunks of peat moss or bark – which you’ll find in mixes for raised beds or large containers.
A Warm, Sunny Spot
Seeds need warmth to germinate and light to grow into sturdy plants. You’ll need to find a spot in your house that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. A south-facing window makes a great location because it will get sunlight most of the day. If you don’t have a sunny window you can use grow lights to provide supplemental light to your seedlings.
When should I start my seeds?
This depends on location, which is why we created the Freckled Hen Garden Calendar as a quick, easy and beautiful resource!
Your seedlings will need 4-8 weeks indoors before they can be planted outside. Leafy greens like lettuce and kale only need 4 weeks, while tomatoes and peppers need a good 6-8 weeks indoors before they are ready to go outside. You’ll find this specific information for the varieties you are growing on the back of your seed packets. You will essentially count back from the outdoor planting date to figure out when to start those seeds indoors.
In addition to the Freckled Hen Garden Calendar that we created, another great source of information on this topic is the Cooperative Extension Service. Each state has their own Extension Service run out of their land-grant university, which host incredible amounts of state-specific information on gardening and agriculture.
How do I plant my seeds indoors?
Starting your seeds is easy! As we like to say, seeds want to grow – you just have to provide them with the right environment. Here is how you do it in 5 easy steps!1. Fill your containers with potting media. Lightly tamp down the media and leave a ½ inch from the top to allow a place for water to settle when you water them.
2. Make a ¼ inch indention with your finger in the media of each cell for your seed to rest in. Some seeds need to planted a little deeper or more shallow so be sure to check the seed packet.
4. Cover the seeds lightly with potting media – just enough to fill in the holes you made.
3. Place 2 seeds in each hole just in case on doesn’t come up.
5. Water the media lightly with water until all the media is moist. Use a watering wand or watering can with a very gentle spray.
Yay! Your seeds are planted! Now place them in a warm spot so that the seeds will be 75-80 degrees (they don’t need light at this point). Make sure the soil stays moist, watering when needed. You can cover the tops of the containers with plastic wrap to help keep them moist and warm. They should emerge in 3-7 days if you keep them warm.
Once your seeds have germinated move them to a sunny spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. If they don’t get that much natural light provide a grow light. If your seedlings are not getting enough light they will grow tall and skinny and tend to fall over. Healthy seedlings will be stocky and sturdy.
Getting your seedlings ready to plant outdoors
Your seedlings will be ready to plant outdoors in 4-8 weeks depending on the variety, but they will need to go through process called “hardening off” to get them ready to plant outside. Plants will be shocked if they suddenly go from the warm, comfortable indoors to the cold, windy outdoors so they will need to be acclimated over 4-7 days.
At the beginning you should only set your plants outside for 1 hour in a spot that is protected from wind. But by slowly exposing the plants to more time outdoors over the course of a week they will become acclimated to the harsh conditions of the outside world. After your plants are hardened off they are ready to be planted in the ground!
We wish you the best of luck starting your own seeds! If you have any questions along the way feel free to reach out to us at @nataliecreates on Instagram!
All the best!
Luke & Natalie